Virtual elimination plans

When a substance, caught under the regime established by section 77 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (CEPA):

  • meets any of the criteria set out under section 64 of the act,
  • is persistent in the environment,
  • is bioaccumulative,
  • is present in the environment primarily as a result of human activity, and
  • not a naturally occurring inorganic substance such as mercury or lead, or a naturally occurring radionuclide,

the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada shall recommend the addition of the substance to the list of toxic substances in schedule 1 and propose the implementation of virtual elimination under subsection 65(3).

Under CEPA, virtual elimination is the ultimate reduction of the quantity or concentration of a toxic substance in the release into the environment below concentrations that can be accurately measured or, the "level of quantification". The level of quantification (LoQ), is the lowest concentration of the toxic substance that can be accurately measured using sensitive but routine sampling and analytical methods.

Once a level of quantification has been established for a substance, the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada add the substance and its LoQ to the virtual elimination list. One or more release limits (the quantity or concentration of the substance that may be released into the environment) are then set by regulations and other risk management instruments will be implemented until the virtual elimination of that substance has been achieved.

As part of implementing virtual elimination under the act, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Canada has the authority to require the preparation and submission of plans regarding virtual elimination. When appropriate, the requirement for such plans will accompany the publication of the final assessment for a substance in the Canada Gazette. Those identified in the Canada Gazette Notice would have to be required to prepare and submit a plan.

The virtual elimination plan is to describe the actions the named persons propose to take to implement virtual elimination, and the amount of time needed to complete such actions. The plan may also include relevant information respecting measurable quantities or concentration of the substance, environmental or health risks and social, economic or technical factors.

The requirement to prepare and submit a virtual elimination plan may be needed to generate information, document progress made, and determine what additional measures are required for the achievement of virtual elimination.

For more information, please contact the chemicals management division.

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